Checking into the broads

The now-famous "hockey mom" analogy
By SARA FAITH ALTERMAN  |  September 10, 2008

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Unless you’d like to see what the sinew and tissue inside your shoulder socket look like, never come between an Alaskan grizzly bear and her young. And unless you’d like to see what the sinew and tissue inside your shoulder socket look like while you’re being called a goddamned son of a bitch assface, you assface, never come between an Alaskan hockey mom and her kids.

By painting herself as a hockey mom — and comparing the breed of zealous matriarchs to pit bulls with lipstick — during her speech at the Republican National Convention, vice-presidential hopeful Governor Sarah Palin conjured an image of a fiercely devoted protector who will latch onto the manhood of any predator and shake it until it stops yelping for mercy. Yikes, Democrats. This doesn’t look good for your livelihood. Or, you know, your naughty bits.

The general rules of hockey-momdom seem to set up women as superfans and body guards, nurturers and destroyers, lovers and fighters. Embracing a tough-love sensibility, hockey moms endure ass-crack-of-dawn practices, bitterly dank rinks, and an absurdly comprehensive array of paraphernalia (now including “jill straps” for the little ladies), all in order to fuel their kids’ fire for the ice. Hockey parents are notoriously rowdy, so it seems natural that maternal instinct combined with aggressive spectatorship make for one nasty bark, with a nastier bite. But is there actual truth to this pit-bull analogy, and does it mean that hockey-mom status will ensure Palin would make a formidable vice-leader?

“I think being a hockey mom means a positive thing,” says Liz Goddard, the executive director of hockeymoms.com and a hockey mom herself. “A hockey mom has got to be organized, a great time manager, a finder and planner of resources. She’s got to be an encourager, she has to be able to analyze and give feedback on skills and behaviors. A homework helper in the car usually, she has to give good examples in terms of leadership and fair play. . . . those are skills that are very easily transferable [to a political office].”

“A hockey mom should be someone who takes an interest in her child, supports them whether they win or lose,” says Lillian DeMarco, a hockey mom from New York, “but I am the extreme opposite of some of the parents I’ve seen. I’ve been in stands where some of the mothers and fathers are just really obnoxious. Screaming at their children, screaming at the opposing team. I’ve seen kids kick other kids with a skate while they’re down. When you see their parents, you see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

I posted a message on a Massachusetts youth hockey Dboard (a discussion forum for all things youth hockey), asking if any hockey moms would be willing to be interviewed for this article. It yielded, among other responses, the following gems.

“The Boston Phoenix as a credible source of information? Good one.”

“Give the girl a break and have your tatoo [sic] beer-drinking wife call the reporter. The Phoenix is very liberal and those peeps need to hear what the conservative wing of hockey has to say.”

Unfortunately, no calls from tattooed beer-drinkers followed, but point taken. Hockey moms aren’t all sugar or all spice, all sweet or all sour. Pit bull or lapdog, hockey mom or soccer mom or whatever kind of mom-in-a-box that Palin chooses to categorize herself as, it’s clear that, by labeling herself as a hockey mom, she’s trying to show voters that she’s got both brains and brawn. And possibly rabies.

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